"This ain't no … sing-along/So girl what you singing for?" crooned Abel Tesfaye, better known as the Weeknd.
Tesfaye was smiling Thursday because the capacity crowd at Lincoln Hall ignored the admonition in the midst of his recent Drake collaboration, “Crew Love.” The fans sang along exuberantly with every word to virtually every song during his one-hour set as if the Canadian-Ethiopian singer were Jay-Z at
In the digital arena, Tesfaye already is a star. He released three free Weeknd albums on his Web site in the last year, each exploring the uncomfortable truths of lust and obsession with disturbing yet strangely addictive music. He was nominated last year for Canada’s top musical honor, the Polaris Prize, and this year he’s on a national tour that includes the
You could draw a straight line from The Weeknd back through the similarly corrosive late ‘70s albums of
Tesfaye's albums package his dysfunction as eerie, disorienting nightmare. He sings in a needy vibrato, often colored by falsetto. He takes the sound of between-the-sheets seduction and turns it into something sinister, singing with heart-felt sweetness about being a heartless rogue.
Though Tesfaye had the raw material to create a nightmarish mood piece in concert, he didn't go all in as he dialed down the menace and amped up the showmanship. He twisted and leaped to the crescendos in the music, and frequently thrust his microphone in the direction of his fans, which made for some mighty strange sing-alongs.
When he purred, “Trust me, girl, you wanna be high for this,” it sounded like an invitation made at knifepoint. He turned
The music veered between dissonance and an uneasy stillness. Goths such as the Cure were referenced in the sobbing “The Knowing” and
For an encore, Tesfaye sang "Wicked Games," about a character so emotionally hollowed out that he seeks unsatisfying refuge in anonymous sex and drugs. As Tesfaye parsed degrees of shame and degradation, the fans still sang along, but their hero was in no mood to cheerlead anymore. When finally the lights faded to black, Tesfaye slipped away behind a curtain and was gone.